Absence might make the heart grow fonder, but trust me, it does nothing for your nerves.
My nerves and me live far away from Sunderland, in the Middle East – Dubai to be exact – where I’ve been for more than a decade.
And life in Dubai is great, apart from weekends like this one.
You see, even though I'll get to see the match, not being there is hard. I'm lucky that we get all Premier league games live on television here, so I never miss any of the action (of course, following Sunderland means there isn't always that much action), and most weekends I can live with that – full coverage, mostly in English, occasionally in Arabic (yallah, lads, yallah), and so I never miss a game.
I fly back for a lot of games, too, usually around five to 10 a season – I was at the West Ham, Palace and Southampton games recently – and I always fly back for the home derby.
But, as you probably know, tickets for the away game are like gold dust, so even the lads back home – all season ticket holders – will have to make do with the TV.
I do actually fly back to watch the away game with them sometimes, but work commitments means I can’t this year – so I have to watch it in Dubai.
This boils down to two choices: the pub or home.
The pub would seem the obvious choice – there’s even a Dubai Sunderland branch, and a great bunch they are, too – but the pub means fans of all teams, including 'them' being there, and trust me, that’s a nightmare.
It's bad enough having Mags getting chirpy, but when some mouthy so-and-so Arsenal fan (from the Home Counties) or Liverpool fan (from Palestine), or, well, whoever from wherever joins in it's the last thing you need.
And Dubai is full of them – it’s a melting pot of nations, which is great, but a mouth pot of football opinions, which isn’t so much fun.
So that leaves home, where I’ll shout endlessly at the TV (never seems to have much baring on the match, mind), while my lovely wife – from lovely Chelsea – tries to fathom out while her suddenly dramatically more north-eastern husband is screaming, panicking, and, thankfully the last six times, celebrating like a madman.
Hopefully we can make it seven in a row – if we get an early goal I fancy us – so me, my nerves and the probably the sanity of my next-door neighbours can relax a little…
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